Restaurant of the Week: Big D’s Burgers

Big D’s Burgers, 135 E. 2nd St. (at Garey), Pomona; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For a brief spell the three main restaurants in a two-block stretch of 2nd Street were hamburger parlors, which was kind of a drag. Big D’s, which has a location in Whittier, was the latest, joining Burger House and the Rookery. But Burger House has closed, leaving a more manageable two burger specialists.

I hadn’t been to Big D’s due to the overkill factor, and because I like the Rookery, but with the path clearer, two friends and I gave it a shot recently at lunchtime.

It’s the first business on the east side of Garey and in recent years has cycled through a crab restaurant, a sushi restaurant and two pizza restaurants. As before, it’s got exposed brick walls, a high ceiling and a deep layout, with patio seating at the sidewalk.

In recent years it’s been a party spot rather than a serious restaurant, catering to the club and concert crowd, and nothing wrong with that. I’m always up for a good burger.

I got the shroom burger ($11) with Swiss and fries ($2), someone else got the patty melt ($11), which comes on parmesan sourdough, and the third got a chicken caesar salad ($9). None of us were blown away, but our food was fine, and the server was nice. My expectations were low, and they were exceeded.

Besides 10 burgers, the menu has four salads, fish and chips, a couple of sandwiches and a hot dog. Oh, and unless my eyes deceived me, you can get a $12 milkshake. Has anyone had one? At that price, I hope it’s sharing size.

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Top Hat Liquor, Pomona

This liquor store in Pomona (565 Dudley Ave.) could really use a paint job, but the angled roofline, high-society name and neon sign still have flair. As Charles Phoenix describes it in “Cruising the Pomona Valley: 1930 Thru 1970”: “This stylish modern liquor store is dressed in formal attire with its original neon sign.” The store was built in 1959.

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No longer Eating Garey Avenue, now he’s Dining in Pomona

I devoted a column in February to reader and blogger John Clifford’s quest to eat at every Garey Avenue food establishment, just as he neared the finish line. Having now wrapped up his Eating Garey Avenue blog, Clifford now launches Dining in Pomona, a new blog of reviews.

For Eating Garey, he ate at every restaurant, or near-restaurant, on that street in sequence, south to north, with one review each week. For Dining in Pomona, he promises to eat wherever he likes on whatever schedule he likes. Ah, freedom. His first post is about Cachanilla. I’ve added a hyperlink to Dining Garey to the blogroll at right.

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Remembering Pomona’s muscle car scene

Photo of ’69 Chevelle Gasser courtesy of Super Chevy

“Growing up in the Pomona Valley during the early to mid-’70s meant being around the baddest muscle cars and hot rods in So Cal,” Nick Licata writes in an article for Super Chevy, a magazine for Chevrolet fanatics.

Licata continues: “On just about every block it was common to see an open garage door on a warm summer night with a few young gearheads listening to Led Zeppelin while wrenching away on a hot rod of some sort.”

Early teens like Licata would ride their Schwinn Sting-Rays on Saturday nights to a vacant lot behind a Garey Avenue Taco Bell, where more than 50 muscle cars would be shown off by their owners. They would be treated as local celebrities by the kids.

Reader Ed Tessier, who sent me the story, says he found its take spot-on. He adds that in south Pomona in that era, “low rider culture was a bigger deal on many blocks and the radios were pumping out Mexican pop.” Not everyone was into Zeppelin.

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Column: Salsbury scooters ended production cycle in Pomona

In the local history category, Wednesday’s column recounts the story of Salsbury scooters, a beloved brand that was briefly made in Pomona, in a factory that was highly touted but, sad to say, quickly failed.

By the way, trying to get a photo in which I was not reflected in the glass of the picture Jeff Hodge is holding was tough! This one, in the shade, was fine, and you can see the scooter art, but you can’t see much of the factory building.

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Hollywood comes to Pomona, brings pie

A movie to be titled either “Callahan” or “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” did some filming in late March in downtown Pomona. Stars are Joaquin Phoenix and Jonah Hill; director is Gus Van Sant. So it’s an actual movie, not one of those no-budget indie things that’s never released. It’s about a real-life cartoonist, John Callahan, who turned to drawing after a car accident at age 21 made him a quadriplegic; the funny title is that of his autobiography.

Assuming Phoenix was in town (*update: I’ve since seen a photo of him downtown), this would be his second time: He filmed an exterior scene for “Inherent Vice” on Second Street in 2013. Two visits? This means Joaquin Phoenix has been to downtown Pomona more often than some people who live in Pomona.

Photographer Ren sent me a few shots. The ones that grabbed me were of the former restaurant at the corner of Main and Third streets, transformed for the filming into a pie shop. Click on the images for a slightly larger view.

Once Chung King, and later Casa Jimenez and El Patrona, the space was turned into a lobster restaurant for the filming of a TV pilot, “White Sheep,” in March 2016. A few would-be customers lined up outside thinking it was real, despite the cameras moving around. Alas, it was no more real than the pie shop. (The series is still listed as being in development.)

The pixie dust is gone now and the restaurant is back to being La Patrona — and closed.

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